Here’s what you should know before registering a domain hack
Even if you’ve never heard of a “domain hack”, you’ve almost definitely encountered one while browsing the Internet. But what exactly is a domain hack, and what’s the advantage of having one?
Simply put, a “domain hack” is a domain name that spells out a word or phrase across two or more parts of the domain name. Domain hacks are a common way to reduce a domain’s length, or to give a web address a striking, fun, or dynamic look
The simplest and most common domain hack is to use a domain with an extension (the part “after the dot”) that completes the desired word’s spelling. For example, you’re probably familiar with youtube.com, but you may have also spotted YouTube’s “domain hack” address youtu.be.
Both domains lead to YouTube’s homepage. Aside from the spelling, there’s no functional difference between the short domain and the long one. And yet, the domain hack just looks so cool, right?
Domain hacks are a common way to reduce a domain’s length, or to give a web address a striking, fun, or dynamic look.
Through clever use of the country-code domain extension “.BE” (for Belgium), youtu.be has a distinctive look that captures YouTube’s playful and inventive brand identity. Other geographic domain extensions (also called “country-code TLDs” or “ccTLDs” for short) are a popular choice for domain hacks since they often end in two-letter combinations that can complete a word.
There are over 250 country-code domain extensions, many of which you can register even if you don’t live in the country it represents. If your name or brand name ends with the letters in a one of these ccTLDs, you could register your name as a nice compact domain hack.
Domain hacks have no single function, but they’re potentially a useful tool depending on the kind of web presence you’re trying to create. Here’s what you need to know about domain hacks:
Pro: They can make a compelling branding tool
A domain name is already a powerful branding component on its own because it reflects who you are and what you want to accomplish. Domain hacks signal creativity, whimsy, and talent for pushing boundaries. If you’re an innovative,edgy, “outside the box” kind of brand, a domain hack can be just the thing to express that.
Con: They can be confusing if used incorrectly
A domain hack can look gripping and edgy, but edginess can be a double-edged sword itself.
If you thought that last sentence was confusingly worded, imagine trying to explain a domain hack in your branding. Like it or not, consumers are conditioned to expect a familiar “dot-whatever” at the end of a URL. Without that clear “dot-whatever”, a domain hack can be tough to explain, especially out loud.
Unless your branding can point out where the dot is without obscuring your name, a domain hack is likely to leave people more puzzled than pleased.
Pro: They can provide an alternative if your desired domain name isn’t available
It can be tough to find a good domain name, and even tougher to learn that the one you wanted is taken. While you may have other ways to acquire the domain you originally wanted, it’s a good idea to remain open to other domain name possibilities.
That said, we’d only really recommend using a domain hack as your primary address if you don’t have any other options, and with the many relevant new domain extensions to choose from, that’s not too likely. You can always use the domain hack in your branding, redirect your “hacked” domain to your primary address, and
Con: You need to be careful with SEO
Google treats ccTLDs differently than gTLDs as a rule, because they assume that the ccTLD indicates the website’s real-world location. Google also does not allow you to specify a geographic location for most ccTLDs, since they believe TLD already implies one. So, a website with a .DE extension is more likely to be listed higher for searches performed in Germany than searches performed in, say, Brazil.
However, Google does make some exceptions to this rule. Google treats some ccTLDs as generic TLDs (which have no regional association and can whose geotargeting can be customized) since it considers those ccTLDs to be more popular for their generic associations than their geographic ones. For example, .TV represents Tuvalu, but it’s more commonly used to represent television.
Here is a full list of ccTLDs Google treats as gTLDs.
Of course, search ranking is only an issue if you want to use your domain hack as your website’s primary URL. A domain hack can still be a creative and even useful tool without using it as your primary domain.
Pro: They make a recognizable URL Shortener
You can always keep your primary webpage’s URL the way it is, while using a domain hack as a URL shortener. Since a domain hack typically takes up less space, it’s easier to read than a longer URL, and you can easily redirect a domain hack to any URL on your website.
A URL shortener reduces visual noise while ensuring your branded domain name remains front and center in your written materials, instead of burying your brand in a confusingly long URL, off-brand URL shortener, or hyperlink.
A domain hack may not be the best choice for your website’s primary domain, but they’re far from useless. If you think a domain hack would fit in with your brand’s identity, then try one out! With a little creativity, you can make a domain hack into a valuable instrument in your branding toolbox.